Archive | January, 2012

The Case of the Cash Register that Won’t Open

27 Jan

I’ve admitted before, and I’ll say it again, that I enjoy a good mystery wayyy too much.  If I didn’t love history so much, my other career choice would have been detective work.  Or, employment by sitting on my couch all day watching Law & Order and Murder She Wrote and reading Sherlock Holmes.  In fact, one of things that attracted me to history is the idea that in every case, a story has 3,000 or more different viewpoints, so how do you track down what REALLY happened?  While there are many facts in history, there are a far greater number of opinions and evaluations.  I have a saying, “History is a mystery,” that my professors never appreciated as an exam answer, but nonetheless is often the case.  As much as this makes history appealing, I really, really wish it weren’t the case in this case- “the case of the register that won’t open.”

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant, 17″x13″x15″

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant. Accession notes: the $2 lever is stuck, and drawer will not open.

You see, the register to which I refer, pictured above, comes from Buddy’s Restaurant, which was first a long-standing, well-beloved Charlottesville business.  Its legacy, however, derives from its setting as one of the most violent yet effective sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement in Charlottesville.

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant, with sign stating “Buddy’s: Just a nice place to eat”

Buddy Glover, a young local man whose prior experience included working as a soda fountain clerk at Timberlake’s Drug Store, established his own place, aptly named “Buddy’s” in the late 1930s as a hamburger stand, located near104 Emmet Street.  The self-declared, “Biggest Little Place in Town,” Buddy’s restaurant managed to maintain that small-town atmosphere even after moving into a much larger location.  After serving in the Korean War in the late 1940s, Buddy and his long-time employee Sylvester “Woody” Wood returned to Charlottesville with a bigger vision for the restaurant.  Buddy worked with architect Thomas Craven to design the building at 104 Emmet Street (last known to us as the house of UVA’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation), which was recently torn down by the University of Virginia to make way for a park.  At the time, however, the building became a hub for University traffic and local businessmen alike.

Buddy’s Restaurant may or may not have served African American customers during this time.  According to Paul M. Gaston, a UVA professor of history and local Civil Rights activist, Buddy had occasionally allowed African American visitors to eat in the restaurant.  Another local civil rights leader, Eugene Williams, has no such memories, saying, “I have no knowledge of a single black being served in that restaurant,” in an interview featured in a recent Charlottesville Tomorrow article.  Regardless of what Buddy may have done in the past, during the sit-ins of May 1963, Buddy did not serve his African American guests.

On May 29, 1963, three men—African American community leaders Floyd and William Johnson, and white UVA professor Paul Gaston—entered Buddy’s but were ignored at their table until being ushered out at closing time.  The group was denied entry the next morning, when violence erupted between the threesome and some restaurant patrons.  As Gaston entered a phone both to call the police, he was punched four times in the face.  Police eventually arrived and arrested the protestors.  Following a storm of negative press after the events at Buddy’s, a number of Charlottesville’s restaurants, theatres, and hotels dropped their segregation policies.  Violence had quickly changed what months of negotiations had not.  Gaston told The Hook,

“Change was not only going to come from direct action, and not from rational discussion.”

Gaston further asserts that as consequence of sit-ins like that in Charlottesville occurring all throughout the South, President John F. Kennedy submitted what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Buddy closed his restaurant the evening that act was passed, July 2, 1964.  On the door of the former local hotspot, he posted a notice that stated,

“Passage of the Civil Rights Bill forced us to take this unfortunate action.”

According to Buddy’s supporters, including Gaston, Buddy closed the restaurant because he was a firm believer in the rights of private property, a common contemporary Southern sentiment.  At the same time, many others viewed the closing as an inability to deal with the changes of the times, namely, segregation.  Buddy never spoke about the incident to the media.  The sale of the building in 1969 to the American Automobile Association was announced with a brief article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, sans quotes from Buddy regarding the incidents of the past decade.  In a farewell article to Buddy in a Martha Jefferson publication, c. 1983 (Buddy worked as Dietary Department Director for MJH after his restaurant career), the author interviews Buddy extensively about the restaurant but conspicuously avoids the topic of the 1963 sit-ins.  Instead, the article simply states, “Buddy decided, for a number of reasons, to close the restaurant and enter the catering business.”

We may never know exactly what prompted Buddy’s choice, but we must look to the positive, as all those involved in the protest do.  The incidents at Buddy’s restaurant changed conditions in Charlottesville for African Americans in a way that other tactics had not.  As The Hook states,

“the incident served as a catalyst for desegregation in Charlottesville, a town whose businesses initially resisted the door-opening efforts of local NAACP head Floyd Johnson.”

Further Reading:

Brian Wheeler, “UVa plans pocket park at site of old restaurant, gas station; Buddy’s played role in civil rights movement,” Charlottesville Tomorrow News, August 6, 2011.  Article can be accessed online here.

“Buddy Glover Retires from MJH, Retraces 45 Years of Good Times,” Martha Jefferson Hospital publication, ca. 1983.

“Buddy’s Sold to Auto Club,” Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 4, 1969.

Hawes Spencer, “Busted Buddy’s: UVA has demolished civil rights landmark,” The Hook, November 29, 2011.  Article can be accessed online here.

Lisa Provence, “A Long and Winding Road: City Residents Recall Integration Battles,” The Hook, April 8, 2004.

Lisa Provence, “Brown’s Birthday: The Road to Equality in Charlottesville,” The Hook, May 6, 2004.

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Today in Rip Payne

26 Jan

Today in 1946, Rip Payne attended St. Anne’s.  Scratch that.  Rip Payne attended a dance at St. Anne’s.  To photograph, of course…

St. Anne’s, one of the two obvious predecessors to today’s St. Anne’s-Belfield, was a long-standing private school in Charlottesville, tracing it roots back to the Albemarle Female Institute, which opened in 1856.  At this time of this photograph, the school was (still) an all-girls school, though the girls were obviously allowed to bring male guests to their social functions.  Almost thirty years after this Payne photo school, St. Anne’s officially united with the Belfield School (in 1975), opening its doors to males as well as females for the first time.  The other half of the namesake, Belfield, was descendant from Miss Nancy Gordon’s primary school, established in 1911.

If you missed ACHS’ exhibit last year in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the St.Anne’s-Belfield School, produced by the school’s fantabulous historian, Kay Butterfield, do stop by our offices or those at St. Anne’s to pick up Kay’s book, Teach Them Diligently, a far more detailed and picturesque history of the school.

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Today in Rip Payne

24 Jan

Today in 1960, Rip Payne headed over to the 22947 to shoot the first of two series of photos of the Keswick Post Office.  According to an October 1965 article in the Daily Progress, the area known presently and contemporarily (yes, I made up that word) as Keswick had been served by a total of four post office names and locations since its establishment on July 21, 1824.  This first post office was located in what was then known as Everettsville , a small but bustling center at an intersection of Three Notch’d Road and the present county road 744 (Hacktown Road).  The town’s claim to fame dates back to 1825, when Lafayette was met by a cavalcade here as he was en route to visit Jefferson at Monticello.

Following transfers to Keswick Depot on February 8, 1849, and then to Henry W. Jackson’s store, in the 1930s the Post Office was moved to its present location on Route 22, pictured below.  At the time of these photographs, the building still had signage for James T. Morris Mechanics.  Today, the facade looks a little different.  Additionally, as you will notice, this was no ordinary trip to the post office.  The afternoon instead welcomed visitors to a small social, where one could sip a beverage while lounging near the stamp rack, or even enjoy a nice stroll around the garden outside.

 

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RP  2351–RP 2384, Rip Payne Collection, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

The Case of an Unknown Soldier

20 Jan

Have you ever heard the expression, “One of these things is not like the others”?  Well, if you ever watched Sesame Street, I hope you know what I’m talking about.

In the early 1970s, a longtime local resident donated a large collection of the papers of her grandparents’ families to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.  Along with these papers, of the Wilson and Minor families, was a unique object that is believed to have descended from the estate of Mary Venable Minor (b.1861).

View showing the front side of the hands. The stick measures just under 10" in length.

The small wooden carving is quite the interesting piece.  It was created sometime between 1861 and 1865, reputedly by a Confederate prisoner.  Measuring just under 10” long with a diameter of under an inch, one can only imagine it must have taken time and patience.  The two hands are not just clasped, they are grasped in the pose of shaking hands.  Considering that this was supposedly carved by a Confederate prisoner, what do you suppose he was trying to represent?  A dream of compromise between the Union and Confederacy?  A memory of a friend or loved one?  Unfortunately, so much has been lost that could have told a valuable story here.

A closeup showing the detail of the front-side carving. The stick measures 6/8" in diameter.

Mary Venable Minor, reputedly the first known owner, was clearly not the manufacturer.  Minor was the daughter of Colonel Charles S. Venable, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia.  According to Anna Barringer in the Magazine of Albemarle County History (Volume 27/28),

He had heavy grey hair, a resplendent beard, and a big head set on heavy shoulders which gave him a massive, impressive look.  A brilliant mathematician, he taught before the war, had served on General Lee’s staff, and after Appomattox taught at the University of South Carolina before coming to the University of Virginia…

The Southall-Venable House, owned by Colonel Charles S. Venable and his family, sat in the lot where Lee Park is now situated. The house was torn down in the early 1900s to make way for McIntire's park. Southall-Venable House, Holsinger Studio Collection, 1889 - 1939, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Though much is known regarding Venable’s life and robust physical appearance, less is known about his daughter.  We do know that she married Dr. Charles Minor of Asheville, North Carolina, a man four years her younger, in December 1890.  The couple resided in Charles’ home state, and had one child, Mary Venable Minor Ball, who also stayed in the Carolinas.  The fact that the object would end up back in Charlottesville after Mary, Sr.’s death may have indicated its connection to a family member still residing in Charlottesville.  But who?  Mary’s father, the Confederate Colonel, was never imprisoned, dismissing the obvious connection.  The vast majority of the other members of the Minor and Venable families served in the war at some point, making conjecture as to a single individual seemingly impossible.

Nonetheless, this small “odd man out” piece does offer us a glimpse into the past, both of a longstanding Charlottesville family and an unknown soldier with a story to tell.

A closeup of the back-side carving detail.

Today in Rip Payne

19 Jan

On this day in 1970, mayhem struck at Rio Station.  A train on the Southern Railroad, now the Norfolk Southern Railway, wrecked near the old depot (and not to be confused with the Rio Hill, the Civil War battleground located on the site of the present Rio Hill Shopping Center).  It appears that the damage was minor, at least externally.  Nonetheless, police, firefighters, half a dozen other men, and the photographer, Rip Payne, all gathered around to inspect the damage and fix the train.

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Today in Rip Payne

17 Jan

On this day in 1969, the Paramount Theater, then located on the streetfront of East Main Street, premiered Candy.  In good movie premiere fashion, folks lined up outside the theater to purchase their tickets and see the show R-rated movie, telling the story of a young high school girl who “goes in search of “truth and meaning in life”.  Besides the excitement of the technicolor production, starring Richard Burton and a young Walter Mathau, I’m particularly intrigued by the sight of the Downtown Mall with, well, a street running through it.  Being a youngster as well as a relative newbie to Charlottesville, it really makes me think about the way a seemingly simple landscaping project can completely alter the way a city circulates and the way a particular location is viewed and utilized.  Have you noticed such changes in any recent landscaping projects?

Enjoy the show!

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